All The More Reason

March 27, 2007, 2:00 am
Filed under: French Politics

Here’s a French debate talk show that airs once a week (the show claims to be a debate of both sides on an issue, but I suspect some readers of this blog would find the views oscillate more between centre and right rather than left and right). I find that it is a fascinating study of classic French faces and hand gestures. For example, 46 seconds in, Nicolas Domenach lets out a sigh that could blow out a church candle a mile away. All three speakers, including the moderator Victor Robert, use quite a few open hand palm to themselves movements as gesticulations.

One thing of interest in the debate is the finger counting of Eric Zemmour. It is said that French people count starting with the thumb, then the forefinger, the middle finger, the ring and finally the pinky (to see a classic thumb starter count click here and watch Tariq Ramadan at 5:04). I say supposedly, because when I was in France I didn’t make a real point of seeing how accurate that was wherever I went. Having said that, I did notice that sometimes waiters in Paris misunderstood me when I would make a sign for two and there would be a hesitation of whether or not I meant two or three (I didn’t mind the extra drink if it came round). Now, what’s of interest is how at 10:10 Zemmour makes an emphasis of saying “Deuxièmement” and it’s clear that he has both forefinger and middle finger out. This indicates that he’s using an American (and possible British, I don’t know) way of counting on his fingers. And yet, not one minute later, at 10:59, one can see him clearly counting in a classic French manner, starting with the thumb.

I mention this because the subject of the debate right after that deals with capitalism and its effect on French identity. I wouldn’t know whether or not Americans or Australians or anyone else for that matter oscillate the way they count on their fingers. I also recognise that one example does not make a case. I suspect though that France experiences more of a pressure on its culture from the States than vice versa. The effect of seeing the switch from one manner of counting to the other is quite relevant and revealing considering the subject matter.

Jonathan Smith


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